The Difficult Challenges Confronting Radicalism in the Post 9-11 Dawah Scene

Yasir Qadhi

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I hope that a new generation can listen to our own experiences and then make up their own minds. Now, let me go back to 911 911 occurred and I was a graduate student in Medina. It's cliched now to say that it was a wake up call for so many of us, it was definitely a wake up call for me. And it made me realize that my place was back here, preaching and teaching to my own peoples in the English language that I needed to come back and give that away. There was just so much misinformation about Islam, so much fear so much antagonism. And so I, you know, wrapped up my master's program, instead of completing a PhD in Medina, I came back to America and started my PhD here at ideal. And you

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know, for the first few years, I was busy teaching with our institute, you know, Boston was one of our earliest students, very active on our forums. We taught all types of classes al Qaeda and filk and Hadith in Sahih Bukhari. But, you know, there was this unspoken rule, that we don't talk about jihad. And we don't talk about foreign policy. And we don't talk about America's involvement in the Middle East. Why? Why do we not do that? Primarily because it was very, very difficult. Our own government, our own countries, our own, you know, the Western world, America, in particular, the people were still in complete shock from 911. And they were so traumatized that to merely attempt to

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explain, to merely attempt to contextualize would have been perceived as a justification

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at that point in time to be brave and point out foreign policy issues, right. You know, if you are Noam Chomsky, if you are, you know, white Caucasian, preaching out against American foreign policy, you would be marginalized and just not mainstream. But if you were a brown skinned cleric, you would be in Guantanamo, frankly, or at least in jail, you know, if you're a brown skinned Muslim cleric, and that timeframe, where the paranoia and emotionalism was an all time high, and, you know, we knew of people I know, people in Boston, those people who are totally innocent and are still sitting in jail right now, as we speak, you know, for nothing except thought crimes. And for maybe some who are

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a little bit more than that, but not actual terrorism, you know, maybe speaking or doing things that definitely in the gray area. So all of us felt that it wasn't wise to address these issues, you know, head on. And so we adopted silence. And we taught our classical sciences and AP either 101 and fic, 101 and Hadith 101. And we just did not really discuss the elephant in the room. And this is 2004 2005 2006. This is, you know, why this growing stronger and stronger attacks are taking place, you know, across the world in Europe as well, one or two here in America are taking place. And we're getting more and more confused. And during this time confused, meaning how do we confront this not

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confused? Like, we all know, what were our group of people from our institute, we're all on the same wavelength that we were not definitely not pro American, we're definitely not American foreign policy. We're definitely criminalizing what our own country is doing from an ethical standpoint, and from an Islamic standpoint, but we're also not on the side of these movements that think it is okay to just kill and, and launch bombs, and you know, near Times Square, there was an attack in Times Square, somebody tried to blow up a bomb in Times Square, you know, people doing things in Europe and France and whatnot. And we all of us, did not agree with that methodology, you know, as well. So

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what we did was we just adopted a, a code of silence. However, that code of silence had to break eventually. And a number of things happened, you know, first and foremost was the rise of a very influential, very famous cleric who spoke English, you know, pre 911, he was probably the most famous preacher and teacher in North America, his his cassettes, and you know, there was no YouTube back then, his cassettes and his CDs, were basically the rage, and everybody knew them, you know, everybody was listening to them at the time. And even when 911 happened, this particular cleric adopted a stance that was basically our own, which was that were critical of American foreign

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policy. But we're not going to jump over and say we should start killing the average American citizen. You know, he adopted that for a number of years. And by the way, FYI, for the record. Yes, I did interact with this person. He knew me, we were acquaintances, we were never friends, but we were never enemies at that stage. We knew each other. And you know, he was older than me and senior to me at age. And so you know, there was that sense of, okay, he's preceding me and the data. I had come back from Medina. And he decides to Well, a number of things happened. He went to jail and Yemen he came out a very different person. And he then basically said, it is obligatory in every

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single American Muslim to start doing crazy things blowing up whatnot.

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And so I mean, you have to take a stance, you can't just ignore this. And that was one of the, the Wake Up Calls for all of us that we can't just be quiet anymore. This person is, is being listened to by our own student base by American Muslims, Western Muslims. And we can't just ignore that he is calling for an understanding and for violence that we're opposed to. And, you know, that was one Wake Up Call another wake up call, which again, same time for him, and in fact, related to this individual. And I will mention this person by name because he's in jail now. And that is the infamous underwear bomber, the Omar photocoupler, methodic, or something? Yeah, I think one more

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photo of the Metalia, the underwear bomber, he tried to, you know, blow up a plane by lighting up a fuse in his underwear that had some bombs and whatnot. And, again, this individual had actually attended one of our seminars, you know, he had attended him Summit. And I barely knew him, I met him, I said salaam, but I didn't really know that person. He wasn't satisfied with us. He left us he travelled to, you know, Yemen, where this particular individual resided. And he joined his movement. And then he attempted to do what he wanted to do. You know, the government got involved, or Institute's name got dragged in, because he had a year before this, attended our seminar and then

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moved on to Hamdulillah. Look, our names had been clear from the beginning, our institute and our group of people have never been under suspicion of that type of thought, because we are crystal clear. And even the you know, the the all the research that they did on us, it was very clear, we have nothing to do with that interpretation or that strand of, of terrorism. So we were clear, that's why we could we could continue preaching and teaching and Alhamdulillah by the want to say for the record, none of our core students ever got involved with those terrorist groups? Yes, we had a few people who attended a seminar and then went on to do other things, or were in jail now. But

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these are not people that are we consider to be our base of that of that Institute. But Omar photocoupler motive, and his case really shook me personally to the core, because I felt that perhaps our silence

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added to this individual's journey to the dark side or to the wrong side. Perhaps the fact that we didn't address these issues, because I remember clearly that ILP summit, I mean, I was in charge of the syllabus, right. You know, we did Sona, Timothy, we did you know, FITARA, you know, detailed, we did a lot of really, really nice topics. I mean, very interesting. You know, we did history of under Lucia that year, right. But one thing we never did, and this is the height of al Qaeda and beloved is still alive. And he's giving his fatwas. One thing we never did was to talk about these very sensitive, very difficult topics. And I felt that this young man was searching for how to understand

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these things. He might have traveled to America from his youth, I think it was in England, he traveled to America, he spent a week with us. And, you know, he, he might, he probably liked everything that he saw. But he never heard answers to the questions he had in his mind about politics and about jobs and whatnot. And because that was an empty vacuum, he then goes overseas, he meets, you know, this American cleric, and this American cleric tells him, hey, you know, go blow up a plane. And he did that. So he's currently sitting in, you know, maximum security, jail life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, a 21 year old young man, and his entire life is now

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going to be behind bars, you know, until I need medical mode comes along with Stan. So I felt that I can't be silent anymore. On top of this, we had a few dozen Americans, American Muslims, just literally wrap up and leave and join these movements in Syria and Iraq and Syria in particular, you know, they just thought that this is their calling, this is what Allah wants them to do. And I got involved, once again, families call me if I remember once, I'll never forget this, you know,

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a family called me up that their son had left. And they respected me immensely. And they were worried that his friends and others might follow suit. And I literally flew in to have a meeting with a large group of youth. And they were asking some very difficult questions at the time, that, you know, why should we go and do this and you know, a long litany of grievances about our foreign policy, American foreign policy. But when I say our, it really irritates a large group of people, as if I'm justifying, look, I am an American, born and raised here, and I have no other place to go. And when I say our foreign policy, it's not a karate, it's not a silent approval. It's a political

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reality that whether we like it or not, the country that I'm associated with his foreign policy is is causing a lot of violence and grief and damage. And I'm a vocal critic have always been a vocal critic. By the way, I've always been a very vocal critic of US foreign policy ever since I started speaking about as I said, for three years. I was sigh

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And then But ever since I'm speaking, it's been a consistent, I've never been supported. And also, by the way for the record, and I want to be, I hope everybody is listening to this point here. I have never once spoken about much less criticized what people born and raised and living in Muslim land should do when their lands are invaded, I have never once spoken to and about Syrians, or on behalf of Iraqis, or whatever Iran is should do. That's not my that's not my responsibility, nor am I qualified to say what anybody should do living there. And by the way, just for the record, what do you expect a group to do when their land is invaded by foreigners? I mean, it's common sense. But

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I've never once criticized people on the ground in their lands, doing whatever they're doing. My talk, and my rhetoric has always been for American or Western Muslims, whether they should leave their lives and join these movements overseas. I have been against this. And I have said that this is not what the *ty AI requires, and that you'll end up doing more harm than good. And that many of these movements, if not all of them, they're not really operating from our perspective, maybe they might be excused from their paradigm. But for us to join their bandwagon to leave what we're doing, because they might be inhabited, borrowed, or they might be excused for what we might not be

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excused for. So for us to jump onto their bandwagon. No, I have been a critic of that. So to be very clear here. And by the way, for the record, please, those that are watching, please log on to YouTube right now. And look at these lectures I've given number one, American foreign policy and the rise of ISIS. Number two, on the 10th anniversary of 911. Frank remarks on the 10th anniversary of 911. This was a public Auditorium in DC, and I spoke to journalists and people on the 10th anniversary of 911 to 20 2011, basically, and I spoke very frankly, about American foreign policy. Number three, when that American cleric was assassinated, by our own government, I wrote I was the

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only Muslim, the only national Muslim to publicly condemn our own country. Yes, the wordings I chose. Many of the people didn't like that, because they wanted it to be harsher, I understand. But my condemnation was published in the New York Times as an op ed. And in order to get it published in the New York Times, you have to write it in a certain style with a certain language. And this is what a lot of my critics don't understand is that you want to get the message to the American people that their own government is the ultimate source of these radical movements. And I've said this many times, right? American foreign policy, and its bumbling, incomprehensible acts, and the travesties

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of justice have taken place Guantanamo mean, the gang rake of rape of our sister Abby, it in Iraq come, you know, the IEDs that have been planted? I mean, that's the ultimate source of these movements that have sprung about it's not it's not coming from the Quran, and Sunnah as much as it's coming from a reaction to American foreign policy. But does that justify Jumping over to the other side? Anyway, so to conclude, my points were handed over to bustled here, so to link it to a rather Boston. So after all, my photos have been worthless, you know, incident,

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our institute was being investigated as a potential causal linkage and 100. As I said, everything was clear, because there is no linkage, there never has been to any of these movements, to any of these people. But at the timeframe, so the government wanted to interview us and our students, and many of our students felt that this is a betrayal of our Islamic values. If we tell the government about this individual, and you know what he did, or what he didn't do, they felt that the Willa and Baroque concept that they had been taught from other, you know, interpretations of Islam, we did not teach you that interpretation was unbearable, but it was around it was it was public, this knowledge

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of water and broad that is there. And I don't agree with this misunderstanding of what are involved, but they felt that merely by cooperating with the investigators and answering their questions, that this is a betrayal of the values of Islam. And I remember very clearly, and I was still, you know, at Yale at the time, we had a conference call with all of our senior volunteers and students and Boston was on that call as well. And the reason why we had that call, was that

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when we told our students to, to answer and cooperate

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Boston, amongst others, but Vasa was one of the main people strongly objected online in our forums. And he used adjectives, I don't remember what it was it Cofer or was it like potentially or whatever was, but it was like really difficult adjectives. Where the sentiment wasn't I'm sure he didn't mean it. But the sentiment

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that people understood was that all of us instructors were sellouts that all of us instructors

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have lost the plot, and that we've sided with the dark side against, are we the biller the interests of the OMA? Okay. Now I know he didn't use those words I'm kind of reading it in, but the sentiment that people extracted from it was that right? And, and I'll be honest, I was very hurt at bustles message. And I blamed myself and all of us for not addressing those understandings or misunderstandings from day one, our tacit silence in the face of a rising interpretation of Islam, that we disagreed with our silence at addressing their Shubo hats allowed. People like Boston and many others to absorb ideas that I always believed are dangerous, but we never confronted and all my

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folks incident kind of sort of brought this to a forefront. And for a while, you know, Boston and some of his colleagues or friends decided that we were not the institute they wanted to study from, they were kind of sort of like, you know, we weren't trustworthy enough. And I did hurt for a while. But hamdulillah A while back, you know, we made recontact and had very frank conversations. And, you know, in the course of our conversations, I realized that these conversations actually need to be made public, because Boston and I aren't just to individuals who are representative of lots of other people out there. And for us to have this frank conversation and put it online, I hope and shout

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Allahu taala, that it causes anybody else who might be having some of these other symptoms or doubts, for sure, we'll have to hear from somebody who has gone through it. And from somebody who was opposed to it from from from the very beginning, but perhaps maybe wasn't as vocal as needs to be. But anyway, the way that I see this is that these issues are so difficult to talk about first, for multiple reasons. First and foremost is the level of of genuine, genuine, bona fide legitimate anger and rage, like the emotionalism that is natural and Islamic and understood. I mean, every human being and especially a Muslim should be angry that our lands are being invaded for no reason

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that people are being killed, bombs are being dropped. You know, Guantanamo is still to this day open still, after what 20 I don't know how many years now, still there are out and how many dozens of prisoners now they're seven years old, whatever it is, and it's still not shut down, you know, gang graves of American soldiers on Iraqi girls and what not the, you know, the preacher, the preacher was killed unethically. Constitutionally, I wrote that in your op ed, but the preachers, teenage son had no crime and they blew him up for no reason they literally just to smithereens with a biller. How can you not get angry, your blood is going to boil at this right? And so when there's

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nothing to do, and there's all of this anger, and then you have this strand of Islam, this is okay do something. The feeling comes doing something is better than doing nothing. But that's false because sometimes doing the wrong thing will exacerbate the situation rather than solve it right. And that's the point of long term planning.

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either

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field for we took my journey, Jenny tonsa, down.

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